Segments in this Video

Rikers: An American Jail (03:27)


Rikers Island is classified as one of the ten worst jails in America; over two million convicts are incarcerated per year. Inmates discuss entering the prison for the first time. Nearly 80% of Rikers detainees are being held awaiting trial, sentencing, or dismissal. (Credits)

Inmate Stories (03:30)

Police arrested Ismael Nazario at a park in Brooklyn on September 28, 2006. Half the detainees cannot afford bail which is normally set under $1,000. Former inmates describe their initial reactions to entering Rikers Island.

Psychological Issues (04:01)

Approximately 40% of the detainees at Rikers are diagnosed with a mental illness. Damien James Stapleton recalls how his mother took him to the hospital after she saw evidence of abuse. Inmates discuss their mood disorders and drug abuse.

Rikers' Hierarchy (03:56)

Marcell Neal first was detained at Rikers when he was 14. Former inmates discuss the positions of power in each Rikers' housing unit. The "Day Room Dummies" are the individuals who relinquish all their belongings instead of fighting back.

Social Structure (04:21)

Kathy Morse was a paralegal when she embezzled $283,000 from a client's account and was sent to Rikers. When the red dot goes on, inmates know that someone has been wounded or killed. Former detainees discuss how they made or procured a weapon.

Violence at Rikers (03:42)

Barry Campbell hit his teacher in the head with a chair, started burgling people's homes at the age of 12, and was remanded to Rikers Island. Morse recalls how officers watched fights without intervening. Stapleton remembers an inmate throwing a glass of hot water on another inmate's face.

Assault behind Bars (03:32)

Raymond Yu recalls being attacked with a razor blade while he on the phone with his mother. Morse felt suicidal after four women sexually assaulted her in the showers for being a snitch. Former inmates discuss rape at Rikers.

Gang-Related Violence (03:52)

Rev. Hector "Benny" Custodio founded the Latin Kings, one of the most feared gangs in New York City. Brotherly Love Overrides Oppressive Destruction (BLOOD) formed to help create a family of gang members inside Rikers. Neal recalls family members working as correction officers (COs) while he was serving time.

CO Abuse (04:34)

Former inmates discuss COs and physical abuse. In 2015, there were over 4,000 documented cases of "use of force" by guards.

Isolation behind Bars (07:17)

Ralph Nunez filed a lawsuit against his CO's. Former inmates discuss solitary confinement. Nazario spent 120 days in punitive segregation.

Psychological Impact (05:00)

Neal explains how prisoners cannot sleep at night because of the noise level. Morse began cutting to relieve the pain. Former inmates admit to contemplating suicide.

Recidivism and Acclamation (04:06)

Nazario states that prisoners are meant to return to Rikers. Former inmates discuss leaving the facility and readjusting to society.

Where Are They Now? (03:22)

Stapleton went to Rikers before being sent to an upstate prison. Former convicts turned their lives around and started advocating for inmates and at-risk youth. Rikers settled the lawsuit Robert Hinton initiated for $450,000; the former convict was shot days before he received the check.

Credits: Rikers: An American Jail (00:29)

Credits: Rikers: An American Jail

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

Rikers: An American Jail

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $199.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $299.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $199.95



The United States is facing a crisis of mass incarceration with over 2.2 million people packed into its jails and prisons. To understand the human toll of this crisis, Rikers Island is a good place to start. Of the more than 7,500 people detained at Rikers Island on any given day, almost 80% have not yet been found guilty or innocent of the charges they face. All are at risk in the pervasive culture of violence that forces people to come to terms with what they must do for their own survival. RIKERS: AN AMERICAN JAIL, a riveting new documentary from Bill Moyers, brings you face to face with men and women who have endured incarceration at Rikers Island. Their stories, told direct to camera, vividly describe the cruel arc of the Rikers experience—from the shock of entry, to the extortion and control exercised by other inmates, the oppressive interaction with corrections officers, the beatings and stabbings, the torture of solitary confinement and the many challenges of returning to the outside world.

Length: 57 minutes

Item#: BVL140282

ISBN: 978-1-64023-790-2

Copyright date: ©2016

Closed Captioned

Related Resources

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.